The Grampians Trophy came to a conclusion on Sunday with both No.6 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia and Ann Li of the United States ending the event with victories.
In the first semifinal match of the day, Kontaveit outlasted No.5 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, 2-6, 6-3, [11-9], saving two match points.
That was followed by Li's 7-6(5), 6-7(5), [10-6] upset of her 7th-seeded compatriot Jennifer Brady, making the 20-year-old a WTA finalist for the very first time in her fledgling career.
Due to the delayed schedule during the week and the start of the Australian Open on Monday, the final of the Grampians Trophy will not be played, but both Kontaveit and Li can now go into the first major of the season on winning streaks.
Kontaveit found herself in moments of peril during her match, starting by dropping the first set handily after losing five games in a row. Kontaveit recovered to grab the second set, but it was Sakkari who claimed the first match points at 9-7 in the decisive match-tiebreak.
However, Kontaveit saved both, the second with a winner that dribbled over the netcord. Wresting control, Kontaveit notched the whisker-thin win, claiming the final four points of the 76-minute tussle.
"It was a very tough match," Kontaveit said in her post-match press conference. "I think Maria's a very good player and she was coming out hitting the ball really well, and put me under a lot of pressure, and it was tough for me to get used to that speed in the beginning a little bit.
"In the second set I tried to hang in there and be as tough as I could and I had to fight for every point, and of course the super tiebreak was incredibly close. And she had match points, and it just could have gone either way, and I was extremely lucky with the match point."
Li was pushed even harder in her maiden WTA semifinal. Each subset of the all-American affair went the distance, as the first and second set finished in tiebreaks before the match-tiebreak was used to settle the victor after an hour and 49 minutes.
Each player attained two breaks total as they moved to the match-tiebreak, but it was Brady who had more chances during the tilt, going 2-for-7 on break points while Li was a perfect 2-for-2.
Once into the crucial match-tiebreak, Li took quick control, slamming an ace for 4-1 and cracking a forehand winner to get to 5-1 at the change of ends. Li held on from there to close out the protracted battle and add the phrase "WTA singles finalist" to her resume.
Li said a key to her breakthrough week was "not focusing on the results, obviously, just focusing on doing the right things and playing the right way."
"I do feel like I have confidence just from all the work I put in in pre-season," said the former Wimbledon junior singles finalist. "Trying to implement what I’ve learned, I think just that’s what I focus on."
The pair got to enjoy joking around with the trophy during the presentation after the matches. "Of course I would have liked to have played the final, but it is what it is, and definitely nice to sort of share the trophy," said Kontaveit. "[Li] was lovely as well on court. So it was a nice moment."